Maker’s 46

Maker’s 46 via Maker’s Mark Website

First, a quick admin note: I’ve decided to focus on bourbons that I can get in the smaller bottles, so I don’t have to polish off an entire 750ml bottle before getting to try the next new flavor. That said… Maker’s was the first of those tried via the smaller, 375ml bottle.

Maker’s 46 takes its position on the list at #4, just ahead of Gentry Bourbon and very close third behind Four Roses Yellow Label. I’m thinking I’ll have to put 46 and the Yellow Label head to head at a later date.

I think I’m leaning toward the wood-finished bourbons. Maker’s 46, being the first in the distillers wood-finished bourbons is a version of the cask strength with some wood stave finishing on the back-end. This drinks easy, and I’d say this is probably something I could drink straight, but is doing very well in the Simple recipe.

It sort of blends in with the mid $30 pricing, which tells me I need to make an effort to look more at bourbons in the $20 and sub $20 price range, to really test the taste/price theory. I mean, why not? $16 Jim Beam is holding solid in the #2 spot.

Gentry Bourbon – Reserve Batch

I still have a backlog of the already ranked bourbons – but here’s to a new tasting of Gentry Bourbon – Reserve Batch.

Seems right for a BBQ and heated patio on a cool evening.

So, I bought this one sort of ‘blind’ as I browsed the bourbon isle of the Total Wine & More in South San Jose. I hadn’t read any reviews. When I got home – I got nervous after seeing it being bashed on a few places. But, I still gave it a shot.

First – I have learned that “drinking” and “tasting” are different. Well – since my intent is to see what bourbons I like in an Old Fashioned whiskey cocktail, I’m not concerned about formally ‘tasting’. To get to the point – the Gentry is pretty good. I’m going to rank it 4th out of the current 6.

The smokey flavor is more comparable to the Jim Beam Black that I have ranked at #2. Though, the smokey flavor is much more subtle in comparison. The sort of alcohol-y flavor/sensation is a bit higher than the Four Roses (Single Barrel or Yellow). This was almost a tie with Buffalo Trace, but I’m keeping the rule of no ties.

The controversy: It seems there are two reasons this bourbon carries some stigma.
1 – it’s distilled in Kentucky and Indiana before being rapidly aged (some sort of method) in Charleston, SC – thus baring the Charleston/Holy City geo-tag in its branding.
2 – The bourbon is apparently tied to a Bravo series, Southern Charm. I didn’t know the show existed until I was reading reviews and saw criticism about a reality start not being equipped to make bourbon.

Eh – I hold no bias on the matter and it’s a bourbon I’d buy again. At the same price point as Woodford Reserve, it has Woodford beat by a long-shot. Key stats:

  • Distilled: Kentucky & Indiana
  • Aged: Charleston, SC
  • Proof: 90
  • Single or Blended: Blended
  • Age: Not sure, but the website boasts some hyper-aging process that mimics lengthy aging in shorter time.


Four Roses Single Barrel

Four Roses
Single Barrel

Four Roses Single Barrel is what started this adventure… and it started it off strong. The first old fashioned I had while traveling was made with Makers Mark… the second was Four Roses Single Barrel. It was so good, that I figured if I couldn’t make an Old Fashioned with it – then I knew it was my inability and not the bourbon that was to blame.

There was some interesting history behind Four Roses as a company… in fact, it’s one of the oldest bourbons in the United States. It’s absence was due to being bought by Seagram’s and heading into WWII, pulled from the shelves in the United States to accommodate the demand and growth in Europe and Asia (interesting considering the timing and participants in WWII… maybe they really WERE still on the shelves in the U.S. – only being offered retail a little closer to where the U.S. service members were?)

From 1943 to 2002, Four Roses Bourbon was absent from the shelves of liquor stores in the United States. Lucky for me, the bourbon made it back to the U.S. just a few years before I could buy it legally and in plenty of time to kick off my Bourbon journey – and kick it off strong! Not only did it start (and as of 2/4/2019 remains) at #1 ranked bourbon on my list, it’s a bold, yet smooth, 100 proof!

Orange & Cherry

After spending time, and money, on buying simple syrup I thought I’d try my hand at using sugar cubes and an appropriate amount of water instead. It looked pretty fancy in the YouTube videos I watched. However, I just couldn’t get the same taste…

So, I will continue to practice – but as I began experimenting with the sugar cube, muddling, and variables, I did come up with a variance that I liked and also replaced the need for simple syrup – I’ll refer to it as the “Orange & Cherry” or the “OC” variant. This came up as a matter of convenience, after having used up all the orange peel on an orange and I didn’t want the main part of the orange to go to waste (see… frugal).

I realize that the quality of ice in my mixing glass is ‘crap’ by any bartender’s standard. Still, I’m not a whiskey snob, or a bartender. I’m a guy making a drink at home. So I’m looking to effectively create the drink with a balance of fun tools, and also realistic expectations. That said, I did buy a couple of ice molds to create two sizes of solid-clear ice spheres and ice cubes.

The Simple Recipe

  • 3 oz Bourbon
  • 1 Maraschino Cherry
  • 1 Orange wedge, peeled (not a cut piece, but a peeled off wedge)
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 4 dashes angostura bitters


  1. In mixing glass, add and muddle the bitters, sugar cube, cherry, and orange wedge until sugar is fully dissolved.
  2. Fill mixing glass 3/4 full with ice from my (or your own) fridge’s ice dispenser
  3. Add bourbon (notice 3 oz here instead of 2, to help balance the added fruit juice)
  4. Stir for 30 seconds
  5. Pour into glass with solid ice cube of choice (cube or sphere); I use a drink strainer to keep all the pulp and muddled pieces in the mixing glass.
  6. *Optional: Add an extra cherry or orange peel to garnish

The Simple

For official ranking, “The Simple” recipe is what I’ll be using. I will experiment with other recipes, but to keep consistent only after each bourbon has received its initial ranking.


  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz Simple syrup
  • 3 dashes angostura bitters


  1. Fill mixing glass 3/4 full with ice from my fridges ice dispenser
  2. Add bitters, simple syrup, then bouron (I’m using a jig to ensure consistent pours)
  3. Stir for 30 seconds
  4. Pour into glass with solid ice cube of choice (cube or sphere)
  5. *Sometimes I have an orange handy to add an orange peel; I’ve found this doesn’t overly effect the taste, but is fun to throw in.

Making the Same Mistake

20150110_172457_Richtone(HDR)We are making the same mistake with returning Vets as we made in Iraq the first time.  We failed to promote the better option.

No 22 push-ups for me, no challenges, just actual work.  All of the foundations do enough awareness and believe me, there are enough egos behind the initiatives.  The awareness, beyond fundraising, can be doing more harm than good if you ask some epidemiologists, as highlighted by Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point”.  Find a brief review of the concepts here in the New York Times.

We hear PTSD and suicide as if they are near synonymous… and I will say the word or claim of PTSD is over used and overly romanticized.  PTSD is not a disorder, it’s a natural human response to exposure of a reality that we hope most will never know.  Beyond that, the knowledge is a burden that must be carried.  It’s not treated; rather learned to live with.  But, I’m not focusing on PTSD.  I want to focus on romanticizing the suicide rate and victimizing.

Want to actually impact the suicide rate for Vets?  Give them something better to do, a better option.  Show them they haven’t lived through the best part of their life.  Give them expectations, not excuses.  Just like American Military Generals recognized, one of the primary mistakes made in Iraq was failure to build an infrastructure after taking Baghdad.  An Iraqi is less susceptible to be convinced to become a suicide bomber, or be bought as a soldier, or fear their family starving, if they have a sustainable way of life, an income, and a contributing role in their community.

Don’t give Vets hand-outs, sympathy and aimless “hugs”.  They all have a time and place, but are not the solutions alone or collectively.   Put the Vets to work and demonstrate their impact and purpose that is still ahead of them.  Sometimes that means giving them expectations.  Sometimes that means giving them the chance to fail.  All the time it means guiding them to understand how they are translating and demonstrating themselves to others, and most of the time that means equipping them with a meaningful career path.

There is no, single, correct career path for any person – Veteran or otherwise.  But with Veterans, going from a role of indescribable purpose, to a role where you aren’t sure if you have a purpose anymore, or if you add value, or if you can provide for your loved ones… is tough.  Add the burden of knowing what it really means to have friends, to love, and to sacrifice.  They know what it means, and why it is so important to put others before self.

No good gripe or complaint is worth it without a suggestion.  What’s my suggestion?  Spend less time romanticizing the visible symptom and create a solution for the source.  How do I do that?  Well, I chose to be a part of Four Block; we work on career development for Veterans.  Not a two day, or two hour workshop where we forget about you after.  Not a once a month phone call or Skype.  But a comprehensive, content retaining, and impactful, LONG-TERM solution to promoting successful transitions of Military Veterans into productive members of society.

They say idle time is the devil.  Well, idle ambition is a death sentence.  Let’s focus less on romanticizing the excuses, focus on holding each other accountable for desired expectations and reminding us all that we have a purpose.  Change the narrative.

As is always the case with my articles here on – views and thoughts are my own, and I welcome yours in the comments as well!

2015 Year in Review – Goals Are Important

2015 In Review

It got lengthy, so my review of 2015 is at the bottom – but let’s summarize to say, I effectively completed 3 of 5 goals with some caveats.  I also completed… NONE of my bucket list.  At least none of the planned bucket list items.  Of the 9 bucket list items, I may have loosely filled one.  My career and priorities took a shift in 2015, which did leave less time and focus for recreational bucket-list items (there goes that whole “Balance” convo).  As far as balance goes, I’ll side with NYC’s most connected CEO, Hank Greenberg.  Feel free to read through Four Block’s Twitter feed for reference.

Also – in an effort to ensure I am writing, and thoroughly thinking through my goals and bucket list for 2016, I am only going to review 2015 in this post.  I’ll be sure to follow up with a list of Goals and a Bucket List for 2016 to which you can hold me accountable.

Unplanned Accomplishments in 2015

Sunset AheadIt is important to make goals – even at the risk of setting goals you fail to accomplish.  It can only do two things.  First, it sets you up with a small dose of ambition & focus to accomplish something.  Second, after measuring what was/wasn’t accomplished you can take a look at how your ACTIONS have demonstrated your priorities and how well that lines up with what you verbalize (New managers should really take note and think about that last line – because your direct reports certainly will).

There are many goals and bucket list items that I did not accomplish in 2015.  I did find that my aspiration to obtain them had an impact on making other – unpredicted accomplishments.  Here are some of mine that I don’t reference in my review:

  • Built a Bar height Table using with reclaimed wood. It was fun, although I wouldn’t call it a “large wooden furniture piece”.  I did get to work with epoxy for the first time.
  • Bought Road Bike – Started cycling (lightly). I never thought I would, but cycling has been a great addition for me, and my family.  It allows me to burn a couple calories while ensuring my kids stay active.  It’s a personal development activity, and can also be a family activity.
  • Public Speaking events. It may not sound humble, but I get SUCH a thrill doing speaking events.
    • SVA NatCon 2015 – Lucky enough to be on the Campus Culture Panel with Michael Stack of the SVA and MOH recipient Kyle Carpenter, all while in front of 1200 amazing Veterans.
    • Tri-State National Diversity Council – it was an inaugural event, and I was able to speak as the keynote on Diversity and Veterans.
    • UCONN EBV – Networking for Veterans. This was similar to the role I fill now, but such a humbling experience to be asked to teach “Networking for Veterans” at the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans at the University of Connecticut.
  • Christmas Presents for Kids.  A misnomer, but a big deal.  Not a big deal to get them presents, but to actually know what they are interested in and if the presents would be enjoyed.  Learning how to be present as a Dad and Husband is something I have to actively work on.  When gift time comes, my wife sends me a list of ideas for herself (at my request) and she lets me know what “we” got the kids for Christmas.  This year, I was much more active in identifying appropriate gifts.  With 9 of our 11 years of marriage taking place while I was in the military, I wasn’t held accountable for being present.  So I guess that’s part of the transition process.

2015 Bucket List (in review):

I did not buy a small fishing boat – but that was a matter of priorities.  Instead, we spent the money on house renovations.  It increased the value of our home, and gave me something to do that required craftsmanship.  I’ve completed all of our home renovations, personally.

I also did not build a large wooden furniture item.  I did however, refinish our kitchen cabinets where I gained experience with more miter saw work and trim-detailing.

For the remaining list of my failed bucket list items – take a look at 2014’s Review and 2015 goals here.

2015 Goals:

Record & Complete One full Song (INCOMPLETE)  Well, that’s the short way to say it – I just didn’t get this done.  To be honest, I think I probably spent less than 20 hours TOTAL, in the entire year, working on any sort of musical production (unless singing while driving counts…?).  This was a goal that was carried over from 2015 as well… this may be a sign, that I have not actively made it a priority.  I won’t be carrying this goal into 2016.

Return to a Committed Philanthropic Role (with Transitioning Veterans) (COMPLETE) Well – I nailed this, and further out of the park than I could have imagined.  As of April 2015, I didn’t just return to a volunteer role – I left “Wall Street” and took on the role as Program Director for Four Block Foundation in New York City.  It’s a 501(c)3 organization that (if I may say so myself) is the premier organization changing the Veteran narrative and increasing the success of transitioning Veterans entering corporate America.  Make no mistake about it, Four Block is effecting the lives of many Veterans, and is influencing the future of our nation’s business leaders.

Run the Spartan Trifecta 2015, Tough Mudder 2015 x2 (INCOMPLETE)  Peaks and valleys, right?  I only ranTough Mudder Wall - Cropped one Spartan race, and that was a Sprint – no big challenge there.  I also only ran Tough Mudder once – compared to my “x2” goal.  With my move to Four Block I was able to make a fund-raising event of the Tough Mudder – and I will be looking forward to doing so again in 2016, so keep an eye out!

Confirm Education and Professional Value Building Plan (COMPLETE* with caveats). NYU Subway Well, my move to Four Block has done a lot.  It’s made me feel the most satisfaction with my career that I have had since taking off the uniform.  In a way, it’s what a friend and incredibly ambitious and inspiring fellow Veteran once coined as “getting my ‘give a damn’ back”.  Having a sense of purpose is like consuming the energy drink that Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster all wish they could develop.  It’s a surge of “get’r dun” that flows through you.  But to address the goal – I’ve began my MBA at NYU Stern, I’ve actively sought responsibility at Four Block that takes me OUT of my comfort zone as a professional- and I am seeing responsibility and empowerment to complete my role as a regional/city director that is far more encompassing than I had in my previous role (and I enjoyed my previous role – but it just doesn’t compare).

Get promoted and/or apply to AND Take on an advanced role (COMPLETE* with a twist).  Well, I’ll leave the nuances where they belong – but in order to see the promotion, growth, development and load of responsibilities that come with it – I moved externally.  As a career coach and advisor, sometimes that is the move to make.  We have ambitious goals at Four Block – which I fully intend to promote.  Looking at our stake-holders, they deserve nothing less.


Happy New Year – and Keep Achieving!

What We Don’t Admit About Purpose

We don't often see "Purpose", but immediate or in long term, it's effects are remarkable.
We don’t often see “Purpose”, but immediate or in long term, it’s effects are remarkable.

Purpose is a funny thing.  People say it a lot; we hear it a lot; we reference it a lot… But I’d argue we don’t understand the effects of “purpose” a lot.

If we are lucky, our goals will align with our stated purpose.  When that is true, good things happen… actually, GREAT things happen.  We don’t often state our purpose, and I bet many of you reading this couldn’t give me your purpose this very instant.

Still thinking about it?  YOUR purpose.  Not your company mission statement; not your professional goals; not your health goals.  What’s your purpose?

It’s hard to say it, even after identifying it.  Why?  Because you become very vulnerable when you admit to your purpose.  There is a natural defensiveness in us all – to not allow ourselves to be “vulnerable”. It’s a survival instinct.  Stephen Covey is world known for conflict resolution – what’s at the base of, The 3rd Alternative?  Purpose.  Get past the superficial and get to what really matters for all parties, and there is almost always a 3rd, and better, alternative.

What have you done lately to identify your purpose?  Reflect lately?  I mean truly reflect.  Not brag at yourself for accomplishments, or complain about those “other things” that keep getting in the way of what’s “yours” – but reflect.

For me, I think it’s a huge question that I don’t know if I can answer.  But, I’ve figured out how to identify short-term purpose.  They’re called, “goals”.  You can endure anything if you have a purpose to do so.  Nobody I’ve ever spoke to would go to Boot Camp or Officer Candidate School if it didn’t result in becoming a military service member.  I didn’t go to Boot Camp for fun – I went to become a Marine. I didn’t go to OCS and trade my “rockers” for “butterbars” because I wanted to be a “Boot” again and enjoyed PT and getting yelled at; I wanted to be an Infantry Officer and lead Marines at the ultimate test of leadership – the world has ever known.

Take a look at what you do each day, and answer yourself:  Does this fulfill my purpose?

– Damien

Four Block Alum’ Organizes Veteran Awareness March through Manhattan

Four Block alumni organizes Ruck March
Gene Wu (Left), Four Block Alumnus, Vet Hack Founder and Event Organizer pictured with fellow NYU Alumni.

Four Block Alumni Organizes Veteran Suicide Awareness Event in NYC

Published on Oct 12, 2015 posted by Damien Bertolo

New York City, NY – On Sunday, October 11th, hundreds of people walked through the streets of New York City wearing heavy packs, “silkies” shorts, and flags. They were participating in the 2nd Annual VETHack Ruck March to End Veteran Suicide and were joined by many veterans organizations, including Four Block, Team Rubicon, Team Red White And Blue, The Mission Continues, GoRuck, and the Bob Woodruff Foundation…

– See more at:

Craftsmen of Their Careers

Happy to share my latest – as written for the organization I am a part of – Four Block!  Give it a look – and if it raises questions, give our page a visit!

That’s the difference with Four Block–they don’t merely give out tools for veterans to stare at; they teach veterans how to use those tools.

Source: Craftsmen of Their Careers